Ex-Executive at Monsanto Backs Treaty Curbing Chemical Weapons Crucial to Planet, He Warns

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FOR ALMOST TWO decades, Will Carpenter of Chesterfield has been working to stamp out chemical weapons in a mighty big arena: the planet.

Carpenter, 65, a soft-spoken southern gentleman, has been part of the team that has negotiated the complex and ambitious United Nations treaty known as the Chemical Weapons Convention.

He retired three years ago from Monsanto as vice president and general manager of the new products division of the agricultural company.

He is known as a spokesman for chemical weapons disarmament.

Carpenter says that destruction of chemical weapons presents certain risks, especially environmental ones. "But their very existence is too great a risk to wait eight or 10 years," he says. "The net risk to society is greater by screwing around. This is not an academic exercise. There are tens of thousands of tons of this damned stuff." The Treaty

The U.S. signed the treaty in January 1993 but hasn't ratified it, mostly because Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., chairman of the foreign relations committee, opposes it. Helms agreed earlier this month to start hearings on the treaty in February.

Carpenter called Helms' decision a major breakthough. Once the issue comes up for a vote, he's betting it will pass about 80-20.

The treaty is to go into effect when 65 nations ratify it. On Oct. 30, El Salvador became the 44th.

Conceivably, the treaty could take effect without U.S. ratification, meaning that this country would not be able to participate in the inspection process or see the inspection reports. But the treaty simply won't work without American participation, Carpenter said.

The technology required to make chemical weapons is not exotic and, unlike nuclear weapons, manufacturing them does not require sophisticated knowledge, Carpenter said. "Any renegade nation can get into chemical weapons," he said.

The treaty permits trade in chemicals among the countries that have signed the treaty, meaning that they have agreed to allow immediate inspection of any facility, military or civilian, at the request of any other party.

The U.N. can impose severe restrictions on chemicals and equipment from which weapons can be made in countries not part of the treaty.

The treaty allows for quick means of verification. "If country A thinks Country B is making chemical weapons and signs a complaint asking the U.N. to perform a challenge inspection, U.N. inspectors must be knocking on the doors of Country B within 48 to 72 hours with the equipment to detect the presence," Carpenter said. …

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